In a matchup between two of North Carolina’s most talented high school baseball contenders, Wagner Morrissette prevailed.
It just so happened that all right eyes were watching.
The Burlington School right-handed pitcher faced Randleman catcher Brooks Bannon, a UNC contingent, and got away from a crowd of professional scouts with three strikeouts in late April.
“That was the big game. There were a lot of scouts following Randleman’s catcher, who’s going to be drafted pretty high,” said TBS baseball coach Chad Holland. “Wagner beat him three times with 3-2 shifters. Anyone can hit the fastball at that level, but this slider really caught the scouts’ attention in those situations.”
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Morrissette finished that game with 10 strikeouts, three shots allowed and one earned run in five innings in a 4-0 loss to Randleman, eventual Class 2-A NCHSAA state champion, and immediately drew the attention of the scouts.
“My phone started a lot more from other teams that hadn’t met Wagner and now there are more teams when he threw 90-95 in the next game,” Holland said.
Morrissette, who led the Spartans to their first state championship in May, will soon have to make a decision about his baseball future. The Maryland engagement is expected to be selected in the MLB draft on July 17-19.
“It’s exciting, but at the end of the day you can’t get too involved in these things because it can all be over in the blink of an eye,” Morrissette said. “I think the biggest thing for me was to focus on myself and control what I can control. That’s a big thing I’ve learned this year. You can’t spend too much time focusing on things you can’t control. Once you use the stuff you have that you can control, the rest will fall into place.”
With a fastball hitting 95 mph and a dirty slider, Morrissette is expected to be selected between the third and sixth rounds, Holland said. He would then have to decide whether to sign with the MLB organization, which will use him to begin his professional career, or to continue his career as a player in Maryland.
Despite all the attention his game has brought him lately, Morrissette said the only way to do that is to stay locked up.
“I have to tell myself to keep my feet on the ground and never think this game is easy,” he said. “Once you start thinking that, this game will wear you down more than you think.”
Morrissette would be the first Alamance County high school player to be selected in the MLB Draft since 2014, when Southern Alamance right-handed pitcher Alex Durham was selected in the 12th round (355th overall) by the New York Mets.
“I’m just super proud of him,” said Holland. “It wasn’t always easy but he’s always put his head down, put his work into it and now he’s seeing the fruits of his labor and I’m really happy for him.”
A little over a year ago, Morrissette fought on the mound. He finished his junior season with a 6.12 ERA in nine appearances. Undeterred, he continued to work.
“I would definitely say that my mindset and confidence has improved,” Morrissette said. “Last year I struggled a bit and I think my confidence took a hit. This year I went into the race with a lot more confidence. It’s kind of the biggest thing for me. If you go out there knowing you can do it, that’s a big step. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else.”
That junior year didn’t discourage Morrissette, it motivated him. He responded with a 0.95 ERA in his senior season.
“His ability to overcome failure,” Holland said. “Baseball is a game of failure and that’s why a lot of talented players don’t make it. He might fail, but the next day he’s back, working, working, working. When it clicks, he’s ready for the moment.”
David Kehrli is a sports reporter for Burlington Times-News and USA Today Network. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidKehrliTN. Subscribe to Burlington Times News here.